Backpacking Jordan Travel Guide (2018)

JUMP TO : Jordan Travel Itineraries | Places to Visit | Where to Stay | Travel Tips | Cost of Travel

The following is a moment from my life while backpacking through Jordan:

Our Bedouin guide called me Shams, which means “the sun” in Arabic. He gave me this name because of the two girls that I traveled with. Their names were Alqamar and Najima – the moon and the star.

Together, with our guide, we were the Sun, Moon, and Star of Jordan.

Each morning, I rose before dawn to climb the mountains of the desert. I was searching for that perfect view where everything could be seen. Reaching the summit, I exhaled a breath of relief as I arrived in time to greet the true Sun. Amusingly, I always imagined myself passing a symbolic torch to it.

Sunrise in the Wadi Rum of Jordan

Sunrise… | Photo: Roaming Ralph

During the day, our guide would lead us to the most beautiful places in the desert. We navigated narrow canyons and hiked over monolithic bridges. The sky was a perfect blue and empty aside from the waning moon that watched over us.

At night, the four of us slept outside and under the night sky. We admired the heavens for ages and were never cold – the blanket of stars above was all that was needed.

Backpacking in Jordan was one of the best times of my life. The landscape is incredible and the locals are wonderful. Fuck, everything about this place was amazing for me.

This guide is a collection of all the knowledge that I gained about Jordan. In it, you will find lots of tips on where to go and how to spend as little money as possible while backpacking Jordan. You will visit Petra, the Dead Sea, secret ruins, and much more along this journey.

So come with me. Let’s go backpacking in Jordan!

 

Where to go Backpacking in Jordan

Most people that visit Jordan just see Petra and then move on elsewhere. I’m here to tell you that there is so much more to do when backpacking Jordan! The Jordanian wilderness is astounding and the capital, Amman, is far more vibrant than people think. Jordan deserves to be explored.

The good news is that Jordan is still a bit of a backpacker secret so you won’t have to look too far to get off the beaten path and away from the hoards of tourists. It’s easy to make your own adventure here!

In the following sections, you will find three different itineraries that cover Jordan in great depth. Over the course of these backpacker routes, you will experience much of what Jordan has to offer. You will visit Petra, the Wadi Rum, travel along the King’s Way, and more.

The ultimate budget guide to backpacking Jordan! Get tips and tricks for traveling around this amazing country, without spending too much money. See the magnificent Petra, go climbing in the Wadi Rum, and hang out with Bedouins. Includes itineraries, suggested hostels, entry requirements, and more...

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Best Itineraries and Routes for Backpacking Jordan

Below is a list of four travel itineraries for backpacking through Jordan. They vary from one week to 10 days in length and cover the majority of the top things to do in Jordan.

 

Backpacking Jordan 10 Day Itinerary #1: Jordan’s Highlights

backpacking jordan itinerary map 10 days

 

10 days: Jordan’s Highlights

Those with more time on their hands will be fortunate to see Amman, the rapidly growing capital, plus most of the previously mentioned destinations. Chances are you will start your journey in Amman, either by flying in or crossing from Israel.

Stay in Amman and explore this dynamic city. Go hunting for graffiti and visit one of the many art galleries. Take day trips out to Jerash and the Dead Sea where you can float till your heart’s content. Drop by Madaba if you’re interested in seeing the Madaba Map, which is of great historical importance.

Head south to see Petra and the Wadi Rum. Afterward, catch a flight back to Amman in Aqaba. If your international return ticket is via Aqaba, thanks for visiting Jordan! You’re welcome back anytime.

 

Backpacking Jordan 5 Day Itinerary #2: The Dead Sea and Petra

backpacking jordan itinerary map 5 days

 

5 days: The Dead Sea and Petra

Five days only? OK, strap in amigos, it’s time for a whistlestop tour of two of the most extraordinary places to visit in Jordan!  On this 5-day itinerary through Jordan, we’ll just be visiting two attractions: Petra, and the Dead Sea. This is a very common route for those who have been backpacking in Israel and want to get out for a few days.

Fly into Amman or cross the border at Allenby Bridge and head straight to the Dead Sea. Experience one of the most bewildering feelings in the world: weightlessness in the hyper salinated water.

Be sure and visit nearby Wadi Mujib or Wadi Numeira for some great hiking and canyoneering. These slot canyons are two of the top things to do in Jordan.

After the Dead Sea is Petra, which is one of the most admired places in the world! Enter the siq (canyonand discover the “Rose-Red City.” Stare in awe for as long as you like – everyone does that here.

 

Backpacking Jordan 7 Day Itinerary: The South of Jordan

backpacking jordan itinerary map 7 days

 

7 days: The South of Jordan

This route is great for those who want to spend more time in the deserts of Jordan. It includes the spectacular Wadi Rum, the reefs of the Red Sea, and, of course, the always magnetic Petra.

Backpackers can arrive in either Aqaba or Amman. The former is better as you can get a free visa! See the Getting a Visa in Jordan section for more on this sweet deal. Those who have been backpacking in Israel can baalso enter via the convenient Wadi Araba crossing between Eilat and Aqaba.

Go diving in Aqaba and see some of the most colorful coral in Arabia. Trek in the Wadi Rum all day and then sleep under the stars. Drop by Petra and see what all the fuss is about. All of this and more will be covered in this itinerary!

 

Places to Visit in Jordan

Now that we’ve covered a few backpacking routes in Jordan, I’m going to go into detail about the places to visit in Jordan, and what you can expect to do!

hand holding in the wadi rum of jordan

 

Backpacking Amman

Amman is the largest city and capital of Jordan. Amman only receives a fraction of the tourists that Petra does, which is a shame because it really is a wonderful place to visit in Jordan.

In the last few years, Amman has undergone a lot of urban renewal in hopes of keeping up with its Arab neighbors. For this reason, there are a ton of things to do and places to see in Amman. From the Roman Amphitheatre to the booming Rainbow Street, there’s something for everyone in this dynamic city.

Lovers of history will be very impressed by Amman. There are several ruins here dating back to the Romans. The most noticeable sight is the Citadel. Sitting atop Jabal al-Qal’a, this complex rises right in the middle of the city and is hard to miss. At the Citadel you will find archaeological sites like the Roman Temple of Hercules, and the Umayyad Palace. From the hill, the views of the city are unbeatable as well.

Other historical sites in Amman include the aforementioned Roman Theatre and the Mosque of King Abdullah I.

Amman has a vibrant art scene that cannot be denied. The Darat Al Funun is a “home for the arts and artists of the Arab World.” Their story is fascinating and I encourage travelers to check it out. Nearby is the Fine Arts Museum of Jordan. The city is also full of stunning graffiti from local and international alike.

Finally, no trip to Amman is complete with visiting Rainbow Street and Jabal Al Weibdeh. Both areas are very bohemian and have lots of charming cafes and artists studios. Sip a coffee and people watch in these districts.

Book Your Amman Hostel Here

Amman at dusk in Jordan

Amman at dusk. | Photo: mahmood salam (flickr)

 

Backpacking Jerash

To the north of Amman at the border of Lebanon and Syria is the very impressive city of Jerash. Jerash is home to some of the grandest ruins in the Middle East. You’ll have to pay a fee ($14) to enter the historical grounds but it’ll be well worth it for history buffs.

There are Roman archaeological sites everywhere in Jerash. You could easily spend the whole day wandering around the arches and fallen pillars of this place. The Roman complex is complete with a forum, agora, nymphaeum, Hippodrome, temple – to Artemis specifically – and a theatre. These are staples of Roman architecture and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-preserved site unless you were a time traveler.

Moving forward in history, about 10 miles outside of Jerash is Ajloun and its spectacular castle. Built in the 12th century, Ajloun Castle would become one of the most important outposts in Saladin’s Sultanate. From the fortress, all of the surrounding lands could be protected and trade upheld. The castle itself is quite labyrinthian and preserved very well.

To be honest, both Jerash and Ajloun could be visited as day trips from Amman. Those on a tight budget might prefer to do this because local accommodation can be expensive. This area is very beautiful though and some may see value in staying a few nights.

Camping in the woods around Ajloun is a great idea. The best camp around is in the Ajloun Nature Preserve, though it is considered “luxury camping.” You can read more about the facility by clicking the link below. I suggest going with a group of people to split costs and save some cash.

Book Your Jerash/Ajloun Lodge Here

roman columns along the street in jerash jordan

The many columns of Jerash.

 

Backpacking Madaba

Madaba is a sleepy little town with not a whole lot going on. You could walk around the whole city in less than a day. Its few significant historical sites plus prime location make it a worthy stop though.

The most important attraction in Madaba is the Madaba Map. The map dates back to the 5th Century AD and is a (partial) mosaic of the Middle East.

This relic is compelling because it is the oldest known geographic mosaic in the world. It’s portrayal of the Holy Land and Jerusalem also make it the oldest known depiction of either. Historians have placed great importance on this finding. The Madaba Map can be found at the Church of St. George.

Other locations of interest include the Archaeological Park, Museum, and Shrine to the Beheaded St John the Baptist.

Madaba really shines because of its location though. Its proximity to the Dead Sea makes it an excellent base for exploring the area. Lodge prices in Madaba will be much cheaper than those around the Dead Sea as well.

If you do venture out to the Dead Sea, make sure you stop by the lovely Ma’in Hot Springs. The springs are warmed by thermal vents and full of healing minerals. The water is a gorgeous aqua color and it flows picturesquely via several waterfalls.

Also worth visiting in Mount Nebo, the place from where Moses saw the “Promised Land.” This mountain is only ten minutes outside of Madaba and affords excellent views of the surrounding landscape. You can see all the way to the Dead Sea and even Jerusalem on a clear day. Taxis to the trailhead can easily be arranged in Al Muhafada circle.

Book Your Madaba Lodge Here

madaba map in st george church jordan

The Madaba Map. | Photo: DerorAvi (wikicommons)

 

Backpacking Petra

Petra is One of the Seven Wonders of the New World ! These ruins are often the main reason many people travel to Jordan.

Petra was once the capital of the ancient Nabataean Kingdom and sheltered nomadic Arabs for many centuries. Eventually, the city was conquered by various superpowers including the Romans and Saracens. Over the years, Petra was forgotten and would remain hidden until it’s rediscovery in the 19th century.

What remains of Petra is a few archaeological sites that now act as tourist destinations. The most well-known attraction is the Al-Khazneh or “Treasury.” You may recognize its facade from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The Treasury was once a mausoleum used by the Nabataeans.

Other sites include The Monastery, Roman Theater, Royal Tombs, and Street of Facades. There’s enough to see that an itinerary for Petra could last several days. There are several hiking routes going in and out the area as well (see the Trekking in Jordan section).

Entry into Petra can be expensive, but the system is designed to put the greatest financial burden on daytrippers. Single-day passes are $125. Those staying overnight in Petra will actually pay less at around $70-$80. There are a lot of stipulations to these fees so referring to this informative web page is a good idea.

Of course, Petra is a valid destination if you have a Jordan Pass (refer to the Getting into Jordan Section for more on this).

Visiting the ruins at night is a popular activity and it’ll even save you money – about $50 worth! Unfortunately, this option limits you to only seeing the Treasury and on certain days – Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Book Your Petra Hostel Here

candles light up petra at night in jordan

“The Rose-Red City, half as old as time.” | Photo: momo (flickr)

 

Backpacking the Dead Sea

Though less visited than the Israeli side, the Dead Sea of Jordan is no less stunning!

The Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth and one of the saltiest as well. It’s so salinated that it’s almost impossible to sink. People marvel at the buoyancy of the water and at how effortlessly they float – literally without trying. “Swimming” in the Dead Sea is for sure a weird experience and makes the trip worth it.

The high mineral content of the Dead Sea is also very therapeutic. Smother some mud on your skin for a healing bath!

There are a couple of cautionary steps that swimmers need to follow in the Dead Sea. Do not float on your belly as this will cause you to be very disoriented. It’s best to remain on your back and just assume a lounging position. Try to keep the hyper salinated water away from any orifice as well including your eyes and open wounds. The saltiness will cause burning in these sensitive areas. Yes, this includes ripping ass – you’ll regret it.

Just south of the Dead Sea are two of the most beautiful places in Jordan – The Wadi Mujib and Wadi Numeira. These are gorgeous slot canyons that are very reminiscent of those in Utah and Arizona. You can go on one the best hikes in Jordan in the Wadi Mujib.

The Siq Mujib trail is a thrilling canyoneering route, sometimes through thigh-high water. You will navigate the canyon all the while marveling at the impressive sandstone formations. The Siq Numeira trail has similar geology to Mujib but far less water, which is better for aquaphobic people.

Book Your Dead Sea Lodge Here

salt crystals of the dead sea

Pretty. | Photo: tsaiproject (Flickr)

 

Backpacking the Wadi Rum

The Wadi Rum is one of the best places to visit in Jordan! The desert landscape is absolutely astounding here. Striking mountains rise up from the ground in surreal fashion. The brilliant colors of the sand here are reminiscent of a painter’s pallet. At sunset, the scene is transcendent.

Arriving into the Wadi Rum is straightforward. Ride the bus or hitchhike along the only highway in the area (the 15) until you reach the Wadi Rum turnoff. Sometimes there are taxis waiting to give you a lift. Otherwise, you’ll have to hitch another ride. If you booked your accommodation ahead of time – which I highly recommend – you can arrange for a pickup. If you’re coming from Petra, there are usually minibusses that will go all the way to Wadi Rum Village.

You’ll have to register with the tourist office before entering the Wadi Rum, but this is a painless affair. Once you’ve passed this checkpoint, next stop is Wadi Rum Village. This is the final settlement before the desert. You can stock up on supplies here if you like.

Past the village is the Wadi Rum! Make no mistake: this desert is huge. It would very foolish to simply walk across it. I really suggest that you hire a driver as they’ll know the best spots and get you there quickly. Drivers will often be available via your desert accommodation or by asking around town. Seriously, paying the extra money for this service is totally worth it, if not, mandatory.

With your driver, you can go just about anywhere in the Wadi Rum! Visit the remains of Lawrence of Arabia’s old house. Navigate the narrow Khazali Canyon. The possibilities are infinite!

Book Wadi Rum Campground

landscape and mountains of the wadi rum jordan

Epic. | Photo: Roaming Ralph

 

Backpacking Aqaba

Aqaba is the gateway to the stunning Red Sea! The Red Sea is famous for its cerulean water, which makes for great swimming and diving.

There isn’t much to do in the sleepy town of Aqaba aside from seeing the local fort or museum. The city itself really only serves as a port and base for visiting the Red Sea.

There are a few beaches in the city but the best are down south towards the Saudi Arabian border. Hotel shuttle buses and taxis are the most convenient means of transportation. The former can usually be arranged even if you’re not a guest of the particular hotel.

Arriving at the beach you’ll notice a few things: 1) the beach can be quite stony 2) women are still wearing bikinis and 3) the water is perfect. The second bit about the swimwear is notable because many travelers expect the more traditional Muslim garb. The beaches are private and have their own (casual) dress code so bikinis are welcome.

Beachgoers will have the unique opportunity of seeing four different nations at once. Across the Red Sea, you’ll see Egypt and Israel, and to the south is Saudi Arabia.

There are several dive centers around these beaches. Visit one of them and book a diving trip. For more information on diving, see the Diving in Jordan section of this guide.

Book Your Aqaba Hostel Here

boat moored in the red sea outside of aqaba jordan

Who would’ve thunk that the Red Sea would be this idyllic?

 

Backpacking Eastern Desert

East of Amman and well off the usual backpacking route is the Eastern Desert of Jordan. The desert here doesn’t really stand out – compared to the Wadi Rum at least – and there isn’t much to do.

What this region offers though is a collection of remote desert castles. These buildings are among the top historical places in Jordan and do not suffer from larger crowds. Chances are you’ll either be sharing the sites with only a handful of people or you’ll have them all to yourself.

The main castles in the Eastern Desert are Qasr al-Hallabat, Qasr Amra, Qasr al-Azraq and Qasr al-Kharaneh. If you make it as far east as Qasr al-Azraq, it may be worth staying in the small town of Azraq. There is almost nothing to do in this settlement beside visiting the nearby wetlands. It does offer a nice base to see the ruins though.

I must warn some people that there is very little grandeur to these outposts. Bleak is the landscape and humble are the structures. They are important though. Lawrence of Arabia used Qasr Azraq as his own base to conduct several campaigns. These castles have stood the test of time and if you visit them, you may understand a little more about Arabia.

Qasr-Al-Kharran in the eastern desert of jordan

Qasr Al-Kharran. | Photo: David Stanley (flickr)

 

Backpacking Dana Biosphere Reserve

There is very little green in Jordan but that doesn’t mean it’s completely barren. Enter the Dana Biosphere Reserve – located in-between the Wadi Rum and Petra. This natural park is one of the most verdant areas in the country and is a welcome respite from the ubiquitous desert landscape.

The Dana is the most environmentally diverse place in Jordan. This park is characterized by several types of flora and fauna, as well as being subject to four distinct bio-geographical zones.

There over 200 species of bird in the Dana. In addition, several endangered species reside here including the Nubian ibex and kestrel. The geology is a mix of sandstone, limestone, and granite.

For these reasons, the Dana Biosphere Reserve is a great area to go hiking in. Many who are backpacking in Jordan skip this area, either out of ignorance or because of a lack of time. Such a pity! The Dana is one of the great experiences of Jordan and shouldn’t be overlooked.

There are a number of ways to enjoy the Dana Biosphere. You can go for a walk (refer to the Trekking in Jordan section) or even mountain biking. Because of its location, you can even connect the Dana with Petra and/or the Wadi Rum via long-distance hiking.

The Dana biosphere reserve in jordan

The Dana Biosphere Reserve. | Photo: jcookfisher (flickr)

 

Backpacking The King’s Way

When visitors enter Jordan, they usually head straight to Petra and take the quickest route there – via a modern highway. In doing so, these people miss out on one the most scenic and culturally significant roads in Jordan: the King’s Way.

The King’s Way is an ancient highway dating back thousands of years to the origins of civilization in the Middle East. Running from Syria to Egypt, it once was the primary means of trade in the area. The road was vital for the pilgrim’s journey to Mecca. Several important events have purportedly occurred along this route including the Exodus of Israelites.

Nowadays, the King’s Way is a relic. It twists and turns and follows the contours of the landscape in dizzying ways. Transport is obviously slow but this is no reason not to travel on it. By taking the King’s Way you’ll have more time to savor the scenery. Besides, the King’s Way conveniently passes through many destinations that have already been discussed!

Starting in Madaba, you’ll pass by the Dead Sea, Wadi Mujib, and Dana Biosphere Reserve before reaching its terminus at Petra. You’ll also get a chance to see one of the most important historical sites in Jordan: Kerak Castle. Even though it’s in ruins, Kerak is still one of the finest crusader castles in the Middle East.

If you’re not short on time and want to see a more intimate side of Jordan, take the King’s Way. How many people can say they walked the same path as Moses or the kings of the Holy Land?

winding road of the kings way jordan

One of the winding roads. | Photo: Dennis Jarvis (flickr)

 

Off the Beaten Trail in Jordan

Jordan is a pretty small country so you’d think that there would be very few secrets left. There is always a side to every country though that evades popular attention. The east of Jordan – near the borders of Iraq and Syria – is very rarely visited. Few backpackers actually make it to every site in between Amman and Petra as well because they’re in such a rush to get to the latter.

Below is a list of three locations that are often neglected by the casual tourist. All of them are worthy of being visited.

As is always the case with taking the road less travelled, I strongly sggest renting a car in order to get around. Public transport is slow or non-existent in all of the below. Having your own ride will make getting around much easier unless taking the slow boat to China is your thing.

 

Backpacker Accommodation in Jordan

Allow me to introduce to you the various backpacker friendly accommodation options in Jordan. There are many lodging choices in Jordan, from hip hostels in the capital to quaint guesthouses in the villages, and even an option to stay in more “unorthodox” dwellings, like traditional Bedouin tents and even rock-cut caves.

Most hostels are situated in Jordan’s most developed locations, like Amann, Aqaba, and Petra. Most quality dorms in Jordan shouldn’t cost you more than $15.

Hostel options get pretty grim outside of the tourist hubs though. You’ll have to rely on other means to get a good-night sleep in some of the more remote areas but luckily there are lots of options…

Hotels are a popular means of lodging in Jordan. These can either be very luxurious or pretty basic. Many come with multiple beds, which is great for a group of backpackers looking to split a room. Most hotels will be more expensive than staying in a hostel, regardless of quality, so packing multiple people into one room is a good idea to save cash.

Camping is totally acceptable and really amazing in Jordan. You’ll most likely be pitching a tent in the middle of the desert – the sky here is jaw-dropping at night! I strongly recommend traveling Jordan with a decent backpacking tent. 

bedouins in the caves of petra jordan

Some Bedouins sleep in ancient caves.

Many camps are already prearranged to handle the massive influx of tourists. Tents are sometimes made from steel cages covered in insulating textile. These campgrounds are usually cheap. If you’re really fortunate though, you’ll be able to stay in a proper Bedouin tent complete with wood pillars and rugs.

Couchsurfing is always an option and is actually quite common in Jordan – it’s even possible to Couchsurf in cave dwellings in the area surrounding Petra! Given the spectacular hospitality of the Jordanians, you’re sure to be taken care of while doing this.

Finally, Airbnb is catching on in Jordan, and you can find some awesome apartments for cheap prices if you need some chill time. Follow this link for $35 free credit.

Check Jordan Hostels Now

 

Where to Stay in Jordan

LocationAccommodationWhy Stay Here?!
PetraPetra Gate HostelLively hostel located in the nearby village. Free transport to Petra. Offers good local cooking.
Dead SeaThara ApartmentsCheapest accommodation in the area. Actually an apartment so groups will benefit most here.
Wadi RumWadi Rum Beduland CampBest camp in the Wadi Rum! Guides are awesome and their rates are very reasonable. Food can be included for extra price.
AqabaDarna Village Beach HostelHostel that is actually located outside of the city. Convenient if you want to visit the beach or go diving!
AmmanSydney HostelNewly renovated hostel. Great location. Very friendly staff.
Jerash/Ajloun‎Rasuon Tourist CampMid-luxury campground in the Aljoun Forest Reserve. Best deal in the area.
MadabaQueen Ayola HotelBudget hotel with solid amenities. Nothing special but the price is right.

 

Top Things to Do in Jordan

Below I have listed 10 of the best things to do in Jordan to get your ideas flowing for your next adventure!

 

1. Visit Petra

One of the most popular places to visit in Jordan! Wander around the ruins and marvel at their brilliance.

red city of petra in jordan

Petra… | Photo: Faraheed (wikicommons)

2. Go Hiking in the Wadi Rum

The Wadi Rum is one of the most beautiful places in Jordan! See the desert that inspired the setting for films like Lawrence of Arabia and The Martian.

 

3. Eat Bedouin Food

The Bedouins love hosting guests and dinners can be a huge affair. Watch as they bury a stove underground and cook using only the hot sand.

 

4. Float in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea is a can’t-miss experience in Jordan! Feel weightless in the hyper salinated water and then treat your skin to a healing mud bath.

woman floating in the dead sea

Float on. | Photo: Roaming Ralph

 

5. Explore Ancient Ruins

There are so many historical places in Jordan. The ruins of countless civilizations litter the ground in Jordan. Nabataean, Roman, Crusader – they’re all here!

 

6. Dive in the Red Sea

The Red Sea is the perfect place to go scuba diving! The water is clear, the reefs are kaleidoscopic, and the marine life is abundant.

 

7. Hang with Bedouins Under the Stars

The night skies in Jordan are ridiculous! There are endless stars and – during the right season – a great view of the Galactic Center. Ask your local Bedouin about their favorite constellations.

galactic center in the wadi rum of jordan and stars

The skies in Jordan are some of the clearest that I’ve seen. | Photo: Roaming Ralph

 

8. Take the Kings Way

Ditch the modern highway and take the antique King’s Way. Transport yourself to a different era and travel in the footsteps of the rulers of old.

 

9. Go Canyoneering in the Wadi Mujib

There are very few spots that can be compared to the epic canyons of Utah. The Wadi Mujib is one of them! Explore this amazing slot canyon and be sure to bring waterproof clothing.

 

10. Visit a Desert Castle

Jordan has some of the best-preserved desert castles in the Middle East. Visit one of the many in the interior of Jordan or head to the Eastern Desert to see some remote fortresses.

crusader castle kerak in jordan

The Crusader castle Kerak. | Photo: Alastair Rae (flickr)

 

Jordan Travel Tips

Below we have provided essential information and Jordan travel tips for your backpacking adventure, including the best time to travel to Jordan, how much to budget for Jordan, and safety in Jordan.

The Best Travel Backpack?!

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Check out this post to read our full review!

 

Book to Read While Traveling Jordan

Check out all of these books set in Jordan below:

The Backpacker Bible – Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building an online income.

Lonely Planet: Jordan – It’s sometimes worth traveling with a guidebook. Despite Lonely Planet’s history of selling out and writing about places they haven’t been to, they’ve done a good job with Jordan.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom – T.E. Lawrence’s account of World War I in the Middle East. Partly inspired the film Lawrence of Arabia.

Leap of Faith: Memoir of an Unexpected Life – The fourth wife of King Hussein – an Arab-American – tells her side of the story. Revisits various events that shaped present-day Arabia.

Married to a Bedouin – A New Zealand woman falls in love with a Bedouin who sells souvenirs at Petra. Follows her as she joins the desert culture.

King’s Counsel: A Memoir of War, Espionage, and Diplomacy in the Middle East – A former employee of the CIA reveals intimate details about the affairs of Middle Eastern politics.

The Fires of Spring – Novel that seeks to paint a picture of the Middle East in a post-Arab Spring world. Nuanced and incisive.

Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East Reconstructs the Six-Day War between Israel and Arabia. One of the most significant events in modern politics.

Walking in Jordan Describes the hiking trails of Jordan in great detail. Great companion for avid adventurers.

Jordan: Past and Present A in-depth look at some of Jordan’s most popular archaeological sites and the history behind them.

 

Jordan Travel Phrases

The official language of Jordan is Arabic. Jordanians use a Levantine dialect, which is the same used by Palestinians, and some Syrians and Lebanese. The dialect is not too different from classic Arabic so conventional speakers should have no trouble understanding Jordanians.

English is widely spoken by younger Jordanians and those in the tourism industry. Some Jordanians who live in the more rural settings struggle with English but you should be able to get your point across. French and German are also common foreign languages.

Knowing a little Arabic will definitely be beneficial while backpacking Jordan, especially if you plan on traveling to other Middle Eastern countries. Below is a list of ten common Arabic phrases that you should know. These phrases are going to look a little weird but the more you try to use them, the more fluent you will become.

Naäam – Yes

Laa – No

min faDlik – Please

Shukran – Thank you

Äafwan – You’re welcome

Aläafw – Excuse me

Ismii… – My name is…

Anaa laa afham – I don’t understand

Hal tataHaddath al’ingiliiziyya? – Do you speak English?

As-sal?mu ?alaykum – Peace be upon you (Hello)

 

Staying Safe in Jordan

Jordan is not a desolate nation wrecked by war. Conflicts in neighboring Syria, Palestine, and Iraq are far away and effectively contained by the Jordanian military. At the end of the day, Jordan is a very peaceful place.

Backpacking Jordan is very safe. People here are very open-minded and shouldn’t be aggressive towards Westerners. Polarizing topics in the region, like homosexuality and sex before marriage, are actually accepted here, although at a hush-hush level. There is no reason to fear for your safety in Jordan any more than your own homeland.

For other usual advice on traveling in general, you can refer to following articles. Check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking. Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road.

Check out this post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to hide your money when traveling.

I strongly recommend traveling with a headlamp whilst in Jordan (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good head torch!) – check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.

 

Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Jordan

Most of the nightlife in Jordan is centered around its largest metropolis, Amman. Elsewhere in the nation, people usually retire to bed early and villages can be empty after 8 pm.

Even though Amman is still relatively conservative compared to some Western countries, it’s still one of the most liberal in the Middle East. Lots of Jordanians, particularly the younger ones, stay up well past sundown to seek out the thrills that may come after dark. There are plenty of things to do in Amman at night.

There is certainly a different side of Amman that comes out after the sun goes down. Late night cafes open up, the lights turn on, and the overall ambiance changes. Amman is still quite safe at night so explorers will have some freedom in their nocturnal wanderings. Meander through the streets and drop by whichever lounge suits you.

There are plenty of bars to choose from in Amman. Off the Record is a speakeasy-themed cocktail bar that plays jazz music often. Loft is one of Amman’s trendiest rooftop lounges. Finally, Studio 26 is a great music venue that features funk and rock music of all varieties. There’s way more venues than just these three though. See if you can find the next popping spot.

Amman is not as debaucherous or hedonistic as it’s infamous Lebanese neighbor – Beirut. Clubs are not really popular here and most people just like to mellow out in the lounges.

There are a couple of nightclubs in the city that draw solid crowds. One of the top party places in Amman is Eight Club. It features a good selection of Western beats but you’ll still hear some local dance music mixed in.

umbrellas over rainbow street in amman jordan

Rainbow Street has some cool hangouts. | Photo: Andrew Moore (flickr)

 

Getting Insured

Get insurance! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your Jordan backpacking adventure but take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.

As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! Traveling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads.

 

Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.

 

What to Pack for Jordan

On every adventure, there are five things I never go traveling without:

AR Security Belt

1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.

 

2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!

 

AR microfibre towel

3. Microfibre TowelIt’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

 

Headlamp4. HeadtorchI would never travel without a headtorch. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see).

 

Hammock for backpackers5. HammockTaking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colorful and tough.

 

For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full backpacking packing list.

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Best Time to Travel to Jordan

Jordan is predominantly a desert climate. It has long, hot summers and cool, damp winters. The far north of Jordan is more Mediterranean and receives a greater amount of precipitation. Backpacking in Jordan is possible year round so long as you don’t mind some extreme temperatures here and there.

Summer in Jordan (June-September) can be oppressively hot. Temperatures will usually rise above 100 F in the middle of the day. Thankfully, this is a dry heat so you can escape it by staying indoors. Be sure to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration. Visibility in the summer is limited as a brownish haze settles over the landscape. This is the reason for the desert’s pastel sunsets.

Winters can be quite cold in Jordan. Snow is not unheard of in the higher reaches of the nation – this climate zone includes Petra, the Dana, and the north of Jordan.

The cooler spring and autumn seasons are when the majority of tourists arrive in an attempt to beat the heat. Prices will obviously be higher around these times. If you want to avoid the crowds and get a good deal, try backpacking around Jordan in the summer and winter.

To be honest, Jordan in the summer isn’t the furnace that people make it out to be. Yes, it can get very hot in the Dead Sea and the middle of the desert. As I mentioned before though, you can escape the heat by simply finding some shade.

Resting camels in the desert of Jordan

Naps are mandatory when the heat peaks in the sumer.

 

Apps to Download before Traveling to Jordan

Maps.Me – Prone to getting lost or taking that ‘shortcut’ that adds another few hours onto a simple walk? This app is definitely for you. My favorite offline maps app, download your map and route before you venture out to keep you on track while backpacking Jordan.

XE Currency – I used this a lot when backpacking through Jordan. It is a great help while calculating expenses.

HIDE.ME –  I always have a VPN ready to go on both my phone and laptop, I personally use Hide Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections which is handy for keeping all your devices connected without having to purchase multiple VPN packages.

 

Jordan Travel Guide to Getting Around

There are several ways to enter Jordan by land, air, and sea.

Bus service are available at nearly every Jordanian border with the exception of Egypt, which technically shares no “land” border with Jordan. Aside from those coming from Israel, all bus routes will take a long time. Make sure you’re all set to cross the border.

Note that if you’ve rented a car while backpacking in Israel, you will not be able to drive it into Jordan because of insurance purposes.

If you want to fly, there are two Jordanian cities with international airports: Amman and Aqaba. The largest international airport is Queen Alia International in Amman. If you’re arriving from outside the Middle East, chances are you’ll fly to Queen Alia.

From Queen Alia, you can travel to the city center of Amman by public bus, airport bus, or taxi. A taxi will cost around $30. Don’t let taxi drivers convince you that there is no bus. If you’re confused about where the bus is, ask the local information desk.

Aqaba has no airport-city connection by bus, so you’ll have to take a taxi. The fair is around $15.

It is possible to arrive to Jordan by boat. You can take a ferry or hire a speedboat to get across the Red Sea. This method is only used for travel between the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt) and Aqaba.

Traveling by sea can be expensive. Ferry tickets cost between $60-100 depending on where you’re coming from. Unless you really don’t want to deal with Israeli customs, it might be better to just cross into Israel via Eilat and then into Jordan.

 

Entry Requirements for Jordan

Visas can be a complex affair in Jordan because there are so many types.

For a simple tourist visa, there are three different versions.

  1. One Month Visa (single entry) – around $56
  2. Three Month Visa (double entry) – around $85
  3. Six Month Visa (multiple entries) – around $170

Most nationalities can obtain a visa-upon-arrival in Jordan. Many countries have to apply for a visa prior to arriving though. A complete list of these countries can be found on this website.

Note that Jordan no longer stamps passports at the Israeli border. This is to accommodate people who are worried that other Arab nations will reject them since they’ve visited Israel.

The Jordan Pass is a new form of entry authorization that is convenient and could save you a lot of money. A Jordan Pass essentially acts as a prepaid ticket to most of Jordan’s tourist attractions. The kicker is this: if you stay in Jordan longer than three nights, your visa fees are waived. This could be an awesome deal if you plan on staying in Jordan for several days, as a visa is $50+ and attractions can be upwards of $70 (Petra). Note that Jordan Passes must be bought online.

If you choose to use a Jordan Pass, you’ll be given three options ranging from $100-$115.  These options differ only in the amount of time that you will be allowed to stay in Petra without extra fees.

Upon entering Jordan, you will present your Jordan Pass at customs and be charged nothing initially. When departing from Jordan, customs will check your Jordan Pass again and the length of your stay; only then will you be charged accordingly. Stayed in Jordan only two nights? Gotta pay for a visa. Three nights? Hooray! Free visa.

jordanian visa international passport

This is a Jordanian visa.

 

Free Jordan Visas

Aqaba is a special economic zone, which means that it deserves some extra attention. Because of its unique designation, there are actually a number of ways to get a free visa via Aqaba.

If you fly into and out-of Aqaba airport, you will get a free one-month visa. This means you can’t leave Jordan by any other port unless you want to pay for a visa.

If you cross into Jordan using the Wadi Araba border crossing between Eilat (Israel) and Aqaba, you have the chance getting a free visa, under certain circumstances. When crossing the border, you will initially be asked to pay for a “visa-on-arrival.” However, these visa fees can be refunded depending on your length of stay in Jordan.

Here are the conditions:

1) Stay in Jordan for 2 nights and depart via Wadi Araba  – FULL REFUND

2) Stay in Jordan for 1 night and depart via Wadi Araba – PARTIAL REFUND

3) Stay in Jordan for 3 nights or more – NO REFUND

4) Depart from Jordan via any port besides Wadi Araba – NO REFUND

All-in-all, this a great opportunity to save some cash. The situation at Wadi Araba is also super convenient if you’re coming from Israel and just want to spend a few days in Jordan.

Remember that these visas only apply if you’re entering Jordan via King Hussein International Airport or the Wadi Araba border crossing in Aqaba. Visa protocols are always changing as well so be sure to check on their current availability before committing. For more information, refer to this webpage.

 

How to Travel in Jordan

Buses are a common means of transport while backpacking through Jordan. There are two types that you should know about: the larger commercial ones and the minibusses.

The larger buses usually stick to the main route up and down the Desert Highway (15). This means that the larger buses are great for traveling to Petra but not so good if you want to go off the beaten path.

If you want to go somewhere more specific (remote), you’ll have to rely upon the local minibusses. Note that these are much smaller and will usually leave only once they’re full. Prices vary depending on the route.

Taxis are the most abundant form of transport in Jordan. They’re convenient and somewhat affordable. Finding one with a meter is always preferred as there’s less room for getting ripped off.

You can book a taxi for a long period of time, in which case you need to negotiate the price ahead of time. If you just hop in a taxi and start riding for hours, the driver’s going to continually raise the price. When negotiating a price, haggle – haggle a lot. If you get a fair price, using a taxi can be convenient.

Bedouin caravan in the wadi rum of jordan

Caravan through the Wadi Rum Desert!

 

Hitchhiking in Jordan

Hitchhiking is very common and totally safe in Jordan. Even the locals do it! Jordanian people are extremely hospitable and will take time out of their day to help a stranger out. If you’re standing on the side of the street, looking lost, they will pull over try to help before you even think about asking.

When looking for a ride, try to wave or point to the ground. Avoid sticking your thumb out; apparently, that gesture is used with prostitutes. Once you’re offered a ride, just relax and be polite. Most drivers will be insistent upon getting you to your destination, even going so far as to enlist the help of another friend.

Be sure to be clear with the driver. Make sure he knows where you’re going and that you’re a hitchhiker. Many will expect a little bit of payment for their service. If you can’t offer them anything, firmly explain this to them.

 

Onwards Travel from Jordan

Jordan has an open border with every country that it touches. Tourists are allowed through the majority of them.

Below is a list of Jordan’s border crossings.

 

Border Crossings of Jordan

CountryCrossingsMost Popular
Israel3Allenby/King Hussein Bridge. Very, very busy crossing that the vast majority use. Expect long waits.
Syria2Jaber/Nassim. Tourist crossing. Other (Ramtha) is used for cargo.
Iraq1Al-Karamah/Tarbil. Long, long drive through desolate terrain.
Saudi Arabia3Al-Omari/Al-Haditha. Not too hectic. Still in the middle of the desert.
Egypt1 (kinda)Aqaba/Nuweiba. Ferry crossing. Good if you want to skip Israel. Not so cheap.

 

dome of the rock and jerusalem in israel

After departing from Jordan, think about visiting Palestine and Israel. | Photo: Roaming Ralph

 

Jordan Backpacking Travel Costs

The best way to backpack Jordan on a budget is to do the following:

  1. Travel with a group to split costs and save money.
  2. Try and get a free visa or one that pays for entrance tickets.
  3. Visit during the low seasons – Summer/Winter.
  4. Couchsurf
  5. Hitchhike

A comfortable budget while backpacking around Jordan would be around $20-25 per day. This will get you a bed and plenty of food, and enough leftover cash to go drinking or sightseeing around Jordan.

Eating out is a very inexpensive affair in Jordan. Fair warning though, Jordan does not have a restaurant culture. Most Jordanians prefer home cooking over dining so cafe and restaurant food will be pretty basic. You’ll survive but you won’t get the full culinary experience.

Accommodation is usually affordable but certain destinations in Jordan can be expensive. Popular day trip spots, like the Dead Sea or Jerash, can be pricey if you want to stay overnight. There is definitely merit in paying extra money to sleep in these places but you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth it.

Renting a car is a very reasonable idea. If you have a large group of people, you can split costs and it’ll probably be cheaper than buses or taxis. Most modern Jordanian roads are well-maintained and shouldn’t be a problem. Older roads like the King’s Way are trickier but still manageable. Leadfoots should be wary as well because there are many traffic cameras around.

If you wanted to see everything that Jordan has to offer, you will have to pay for it. Hiring guides in the Wadi Rum, entry for Petra; all of these expenses add up. Popular places, like the Wadi Rum or Petra, will cost around $200 for the full – probably three-day – experience. A Jordan Pass can help with the entry fees but you’re still paying for everything else.

You’ll have to pay a pretty penny to experience Petra. | Photo: Andrew Moore (flickr)

 

Money in Jordan

The official currency of Jordan is the Jordanian dinar. As of March 2018, the conversion rate is 1 dinar=1.41 USD.

Technically, the Jordanian dinar is worth more than the dollar, but most everything in Jordan costs only a few notes. Don’t feel bad for exchanging that crisp Benjamin for only a few bills – they’ll go a long way.

Most cities have plentiful ATMs and it should never be difficult to withdraw cash. Note that ATMs usually dispense twenty and fifty dinar notes. Since everything only costs a couple of dinar, breaking a bill can be tedious. Try to keep as much small change as possible.

Unsurprisingly, there are not many banks or ATMs in the middle of the Jordanian desert. Before venturing out into the wilderness, like the Wadi Rum or Dana, be sure to have cash on you. If you run out of dinar, many businesses will accept USD if forced to. Be sure and inquire about this with your local guide.

GET IT HERE

You should always have some emergency cash hidden on you and Will (Broke Backpacker founder) has written an entire post on the best places to hide your money. If you want to carry a fair bit of cash safely on your body, your best bet is to get hold of a backpacker belt with a hidden security pocket.
Jordanian dinar bills and coins

Jordanian dinar. | Photo: Makeandtoss (wikicommons)

 

Top Tips for Broke Backpackers

To keep your spending to an absolute minimum whilst backpacking Jordan, I recommend sticking to the basic rules of budget adventuring….

Camp: With plenty of campgrounds, Jordan is a great place to camp. You can often pitch a tent for much cheaper than staying in a guest house or for free altogether. Check out this post for a breakdown of the best tents to take backpacking or maybe you prefer a camping hammock?

Cook your own food: If you’re on a real tight budget; it’s worth taking a portable stove – check out this post for info on the best backpacking stoves.

Hitchhike: In Jordan, it is relatively easy to thumb a ride. Hitchhiking is an ace way to keep your transport costs down.

Pack a travel water bottle  and save money every day! 

To learn how to travel the world on $10 a day, check out the backpacker’s bible.

 

Live in Jordan

Jordan is a peaceful nation that is rarely in the spotlight. As one expat put it, “it’s all perfectly normal. A day in my life here is like a day anywhere.” It’s a relatively easy life compared to other nations.

What makes Jordan so appealing though is that the people are so welcoming! If you move here, the locals will quickly adopt you into their social circles. There is no alienation or shunning backpacking from society.

There are many ways to stick around Jordan. Lots of people join non-profits or organizations that provide aid. Most of these opportunities require invitation though, so you have to look hard for them.

 

Volunteer in Jordan

Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in Jordan whilst making a real impact on local communities, look no further than World Packers. World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.

In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.

Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project. World Packers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs and eco-projects around the world. Broke Backpacker readers get a special discount of $20 – just use this discount code  BROKEBACKPACKER and membership is discounted from $49 a year to $29.

 

Travel Jordan for Free

Are you a native English speaker looking to earn cash whilst traveling the world? Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.

In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.

 

Internet in Jordan

Telecommunications in Jordan are very modern. Most of the nation has high-speed internet.

The Jordanian government is very supportive of web-based development and invests much in the sector. Under the rule of the Abdullah II, the current King of Jordan, computers have become ubiquitous in schools and 100% of the population now has a cell phone.

In closing, finding WiFi or a phone shouldn’t be a problem when backpacking around Jordan.

dance party in the wadi rum of jordan

Dance party in the desert! | Photo: Roaming Ralph

 

Must Try Experiences in Jordan

 

People in Jordan

Jordanians are some the most hospitable people that I’ve encountered. They will take anyone in and ensure that all their needs are met. This kindness is extended to neighbors, backpackers, and anyone else.

Jordanian culture is built upon hospitality. Because the people live in such a harsh environment, it’s imperative that they take care of each other. A Bedouin never knows when he’ll be caught in a bad situation – either for lack of subsistence or shelter – so they must often turn to their neighbor. They’ll ask for aid and, in return, they’ll give assistance when it’s called upon.

In my own experience, I find Jordanians to be very open-minded. Westerners have a tendency to label Arabic cultures as overzealous. This is not the case in Jordan. Jordanians are very accepting, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Many will express a great curiosity when it comes to foreigners. They will ask many questions – usually with a smile.

The overwhelming hospitality displayed by Jordanians doesn’t mean tourists can act recklessly though. There are plenty of customs in Jordan that still need to be followed. You can learn about these taboos in the section Being a Responsible Backpacker.

You’ve probably heard the word “Bedouin” a lot by now too. Bedouins are nomadic Arabs that live in the desert and travel frequently. They are spread across all of Arabia and there is a very large population in Jordan. They have their own culture and are recognized by the Jordanian crown.

There is still some segregation amongst men and women in Jordan. The tradition has been a facet of the culture for thousands of years though and it isn’t the backpacker’s place to criticize the locals. This seperation shouldn’t affect foreign women as they are treated as “honorary men” while visiting.

Jordanian men embracing one another in jerash jordan

“Welcome to Jordan.”

 

Food in Jordan

Food is a very important aspect of Jordanian society. People gather around at meals to come together and share with one another. As mentioned before, Jordanian people take care of one another and this includes providing nourishment.

The best food is found in the local communities and not in the restaurants. If you have a chance to eat a traditional meal with a family, do it. It’ll be the best food that you have while backpacking Jordan. There will be many opportunities to eat with Jordanians in the more intimate parts of Jordan, like the Wadi Rum and the quieter neighborhoods of Amman.

Jordanian cuisine incorporates a lot of cooking from neighboring countries. Hummus, falafel, tabouli, and other Middle Eastern staples will be widely available in Jordan. Don’t mistake these for traditional Jordanian food though. They are popular dishes but not rooted in the culture.

Most Jordanians eat mezze style, which is a form of communal dining. In mezze, everyone shares from a large selection of appetizers served simultaneously. After finishing the mezze, main courses will be served.

 

Popular Jordan Dishes

Mansaf – Lamb cooked in dried yogurt served over rice or bulgur.

Bulgur – Milled wheat.

Makdous – Pickled eggplant with stuffing.

Zarb – Rice and meat dish cooked in an oven that is submerged in sand.

Maqluba – Rice, veggies, and meats are cooked in a giant pan and “turned over” whole onto a plate.

Kibbeh – Boiled rice and meats fried in dough.

Musakhan – Roasted chicken and onions served over bread.

Warak Enab – Grape leaves stuffed with various ingredients.

Mujadara – Vegetarian dish with rice and lentils.

Kebab – Roasted or grilled meats on a skewer.

Mansaf dish jordanian food big portion

Did I mention the portions of the mansaf? | Photo: Nickfraser (wikicommons)

 

Festivals in Jordan

Many of Jordan’s holidays are religious in nature. Some can involve gestures that seem intense to Western audiences but not every holiday involves shear penance. There are several secular festivals in Jordan. These are more cultural in nature and usually feature music, art, and dance exhibitions.

Note that Muslim holidays follow the Muslim calendar, which is different from the Gregorian calendar. The main difference between the two is that the Muslim calendar is about a dozen days shorter than the Gregorian. This disparity is slight but it does cause the dates of Muslim holidays to jump around a little when they’re transferred to a Gregorian calendar.

Aqaba Traditional Arts Festival (February) – Celebrates the culture of Bedouin communities. Includes art, poetry, and more.

Azraq Festival (February) – Celebrates the culture of Azraq. Similar to festival above.

Ramadan (May/June) – The great fasting of Muslims. Food/drink are only consumed at night.

Jerash Festival (July) – The largest cultural festival in Jordan. Celebrates all ethnic factions of the nation.

Maya Diab at the Jersah Festival jordan

Maya Diab at the Jersah Festival. | Photo: Diana Farroukh (wikicommons)

Al Balad Music Festival (July) – Showcase of traditional music of the Middle East. Held at the Roman Theater in Amman. Biannual.

Hakaya Festival (September) – An Arab storytelling festival. Collection of artists, writers, and orators sharing stories.

Muharram (September/October) – Commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein ibn Ali. Celebrated through mourning, with Shias performing chest beating and self-flagellation.

Baladk Street Art Festival (October) – Arts festivals showcasing local graffiti artists in Amman.

Graffiti street art in amman jordan

Amman as some very respectable street art.

Amman International Theatre Festival (November) – Invitees are from the Middle East and Europe. Includes workshops in addition to theatrical performances.

Rabi’ al-awwal (October/November/December) – Celebrates the birth of Muhammad. Stories of the prophet are shared.

 

Trekking in Jordan

Jordan is full of adventurous opportunities! You can go trekking, climbing, scrambling, and canyoneering throughout the country. I actually found the landscape in Jordan to be very similar to the American Southwest, which is one the premier outdoor areas on Earth!

There are several campgrounds in Jordan, mostly in the south around Petra, the Dana, and Wadi Rum. Most have tents that are already set up and ready to be occupied. These prearranged camps can be quite cheap.

It’s always a good idea to have your own tent though as it’s a great way to save cash. Consider buying one and a sleeping mat, or ditch both by investing in a hammock. A wilderness stove is also a good idea for some hearty rice and beans.

I always suggest getting a sturdy backpack as well. My first backpack was a cheap one. Though it lasted a respectable amount of time, it would eventually be held together by duct tape and carabiners. Needless to say, it was far from waterproof.

Take my advice: invest in a quality backpack because by the end of your trip you’ll be wearing it so much that it’ll become an extension of your own body. You want the best.

I suggest the new Osprey Aether AG 70 backpack, which you can read about here, and don’t forget to consider a daypack as well. A good daypack will be just as useful during your day-to-day activities and should side nicely into your larger backpack.

Below is a list of Jordan’s most famous trails.

 

Climbing Jabal Umm ad Dami

2.5 hours, 3 km round

Climb up Jordan’s highest mountain! It affords great views of the Wadi Rum. Note that you will need a driver/guide to start this climb.

View from the the summit of jabal umm ad dami in Wadi Rum Jordan

Views from the Jabal Umm ad Dami. | Photo: anagh (wikicommons)

 

Climbing Jebel Burdah

3 hours, 4km round

Climb to the top of Jebel Burdah and see the amazing stone bridge at the top. This is one of the best opportunities for photography in Jordan. Again, a driver/guide is needed.

stone bridge of jebel burdah in wadi rum jordan

The great stone bridge of Jebel Burdah. | Photo: Roaming Ralph

 

Trekking the Siq of Petra + Main Sites

4-5 hours, 8km round

Enter Petra through the amazing siq (canyon) and visit the main attractions, including the Treasury, Streets of Facades, Theatre, Byzantine Church, and Museum.

Siq canyon entrance of the treasury petra

The siq (canyon) serves as a great entrance to the Treasury of Petra. | Photo: Domenico Salvagnin (flickr)

 

Trekking to Little Petra and The Monastery

6 hours, 10km round

A must do on any itinerary for Petra! See some of Petra’s greatest sites on one hike, including Little Petra, the Al-Beidha Neolithic site, Wadi Merwan, and the Monastery.

Ed Deir Monastery Holiday Travel Jordan Petra

The Monastery is just as magnificent as the Treasury.

 

Trekking the Dana-Feynan Lodge Trail

6 hours, 15 km one way

Trek into the heart of the Dana Biosphere Reserve and end at the Feynan Lodge. You have high chances of seeing local avian wildlife and wildflowers (depending on season).

 

Trekking the Dana-Petra Trail

4-6 days, 73 km one way

Trek from Dana Biosphere Reserve to Petra or vice-versa. Over the course of four days, you’ll see everything that the last three listed hikes offer plus more!

Geology in the dana biosphere nature reserve

Watch the landscape change as you trek from the Dana to Petra. | Photo: Phillip Dennert (wikicommons)

 

Trekking the Mujib Siq Trail

2-3 hours

One of the best trails in Jordan! Navigate a slot canyon in the Wadi Mujib and go swimming in the water. Great way to cool off in the summer.

stream in the wadi mujb siq trail of jordan

Kinda looks like the Narrows of Zion, right? | Photo: Hiking in Jordan (flickr)

 

Trekking the Numeira Siq Trail

Half-day, 7km

A drier version of the Mujib Siq trail but no less amazing!

canyon siq of the qadi numeira in jordan

Inspiring. | Photo: Hiking in Jordan (ikicommons)

 

Trekking the Jordan Trail

45 days, 650 km

One of the best trails in the world! Trek from the northern tip of Jordan to the Red Sea, which is nearly the entire country. The trail is only a few years old.

 

Diving in Jordan

As mentioned before, Jordan offers some of the best diving around the Middle East! All the dive sites are located in the south where the Red Sea meets with Jordan’s only coastline. The most convenient base to dive from is the city of Aqaba.

There are more than enough dive centers in and nearby Aqaba. You can refer to this directory for a complete list of local centers. Most speak English. Find one that looks good to you and reach out to them! As of March 2018, Dive Aqaba is even hiring interns for the 2018 season. Sound interesting?

Once you’ve found your favorite dive center, they can take you to one of many dive sites in the Red Sea. The Red Sea is known for the clarity of its water and the brilliance of the coral. Local marine life includes hawksbill turtles, moray eels, lionfish, blue-spotted rays, napoleon wrasses, and frogfish.

Diving is possible year-round though the water gets quite warm in the summer – over 80 F. Bring a thinner suit during the summer months.

Military divers perform drills in the Red Sea.

This group of divers looks like they’re on a mission.

Popular sites include the following:

Diving Cedar Pride – One of the popular dive spots in Jordan. Refers to the sunken ship of the same name that you’ll be exploring.

Diving Japanese Gardens – Very colorful coral garden. One of the best reefs in the area.

Diving Seven Sisters and the Tank – Sunken US military tank that is now covered in coral. Hosts lots of eels.

Diving Power Station – Unpredictable conditions but a dramatic drop off is well worth the wait. Popular with tech divers.

Lionfish in the Red Sea. near aqaba jordan

Lionfish in the Red Sea.

 

Rock Climbing in Jordan

Wadi Rum is a paradise for rock climbers. As one rockhound put: “It feels like the epicenter of the universe…the ultimate in adventure climbing.” Having been there myself, I agree wholeheartedly.

The rock in the Wadi Rum is mostly sandstone. There are some soft spots though, so trad climbers should be cautious. I should mention as well that are no sport routes in the Wadi Rum – everything is pure. So trad is really the only way to go.

The known routes range from 5.5-5.13 in difficulty. The cracks, in particular, are near perfect. The following is a list of some of the routes. You can refer to this website for more information.

The Beauty T 5.10

Wisdom Pillar T 5.9+

La Guerre Sainte S5.12b

Lionheart T 5.10+

Merlin’s Wand T 5.10

So the Wadi Rum sounds like a good time, eh? It’s probably overrun with dirtbaggers by now though. Why bother?

Nope. The Wadi Rum is empty. There is no one there.

Tourism in Arabia has been steadily dropping off in recent years. This is reportedly due to rising tensions in the Middle East. Consequently, the Wadi Rum is relatively undeveloped still in regards to climbing.

That is not to say that there is no climbing community in Jordan. Jordan actually has one the most dedicated climbing communities in all of Arabia. There could be several reasons for this but they’re hard to gauge. Many believe that the sport offers an escape from modern anxieties. This seems appropriate as the Middle East is prone to crisis in recent years.

Regardless, people care about climbing in Jordan. Young Jordanians, who learned the sport from legends passing-by, keep the flame alive. Thanks, guys.

 

Being a Responsible Backpacker in Jordan

Jordanians are a forgiving people that usually look the other way when a foreigner acts rudely. Leniency aside, this is no excuse to act like a douche bag while backpacking through Jordan. You should still try and adhere to local customs and to be as polite as possible.

If you slip up, don’t worry – no one’s going to take your hand or throw you in jail. The people of Jordan will appreciate you greatly though and show greater respect if you at least try. Here are few local etiquettes to be mindful of in Jordan.

  1. Dress modestly to adhere to Muslim tradition
  2. Avoid public displays of affection
  3. Remove your shoes when entering a house or mosque
  4. Never present the soles of your feet
  5. Return greetings
  6. Avoid eating in public during Ramadan
  7. Don’t talk shit about the King of Jordan.

Tour organizers in Petra have been criticized for their (poor) handling of pack animals including horses and donkeys. In recent years, this unacceptable behavior has been addressed by a new animals rights non-profit called Four Paws. While the cruel treatment of animal has been thoroughly banished in Petra, there is still room for relapse. If you see someone abusing a creature, report it to the local park rangers.

Think carefully before you decide to ride on a horse or mule… Especially if you are overweight. If you really want to help these beasts of burden, do some sprints before backpacking Jordan and then you’ll be as fit as them!

Finally, I’ll give you my usual advice of “don’t be an asshole on holiday.” Drink only what you can handle, be respectful of the locals, and don’t be a shit stirrer.

Jordanian man in headdress

The face of a man who’s lived an interesting life.

Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough and cool travel water bottle. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, pick up a water bottle here. 

Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.

 

A Brief History of Jordan

Like the Petra of John Burton’s poem, the history of Jordan is “half as old as time.” The earliest evidence of Jordanian culture dates back over ten thousand years to the Neolithic Era. For the thousands of years to come, Jordan would be juggled between competing sovereignties. Jordan would witness the rise and fall of some the world’s greatest powers.

In antiquity, Jordan was present when the Kingdoms of Moab and Ammon ruled. On Jordanian land, the King of Ammon battled the House of David, which is spoken about in the Book of Kings. When the Romans came, the Nabateans were the kings of Jordan. They were defeated by the Roman Empire and their capital, Petra, was forgotten.

In the Middle Ages, Jordan was a part of the first Muslim dynasty, the Umayyad Empire. Like the Romans, the Umayyads fell. Then came the Abbasids – they faded away too. One power after another inhabbited Jordan – the Crusaders, Saladin’s Mamluks, and finally the Ottomans.

The Ottomans were cruel to the Jordanians. They neglected the people and treated Jordan merely as the halfway point to Mecca. Cities were abandoned until only the Bedouins remained. The Ottomans would be the last foreigners to rule Jordan.

During World War I, the Jordanians joined the Great Arab Revolt, led by the Saudi Kingdom of Hejaz, against the Ottomans. The United Kingdom supported them in hopes of destabilizing the opposing Turks. The revolting Arabs would be victorious by 1918.

The UK helped establish the first modern iteration of Jordan following World War I. By 1928, Jordan was fairly autonomous. In 1946, they were granted full independence by the English Crown under Abdullah I. Jordan was finally its own country.

the temple of hercules in amman jordan

The Temple of Hercules: one of many Roman ruins. | Photo: andryn2006 (wikicommons)

 

Modern Jordan

Jordan would be caught up in the turbulence that wracked the Middle East following World War II. Israel had just been created after a second partition of the region. Jordan united with other Arab nations against Israel in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 and, in the aftermath, gained the West Bank.

Following the death of Abdullah I, his son, King Hussein, took the throne. Under Hussein, Jordan would become one of the most liberal Arab nations, especially during the 50s and 60s. By the mid-60s there was another armed conflict with Israel, the Six-Day War. Jordan would lose the West Bank to the Israelites.

For the next forty years, Jordan would be subject to mass protests, attempted coups, and collateral from extra-territorial wars. In the 90s, Jordan supported the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein. The US promptly withdrew all aid to Jordan, resulting in severe economic hardship. In 1994, Jordan, along with other Arab nations, agreed to enter peace accords with Israel. They came to terms and ended a war that had lasted 46 years.

King Hussein died in 1998, and his son Abdullah II became ruler. Jordan has since continued its liberal policies and prospered under Abdullah II. There have been some bumps in the road for Jordan including political stagnation and unwarranted terminations. Continued public dissatisfaction with certain political entities would cause the people to join in the trans-Arab movement known as the Arab Spring.

No country is perfect. Jordan, like every modern nation, is fighting its own demons. Jordan stands out from the rest though. It promotes free speech and tolerance in a region that can seem radically conservative at times. Jordan has staggered some, yes, but its future is still bright.

blue mosque of amman abdullah i

The Blue Mosque in Amman is dedicated to Abdullah I.

 

Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible…

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The ultimate budget guide to backpacking Jordan! Get tips and tricks for traveling around this amazing country, without spending too much money. See the magnificent Petra, go climbing in the Wadi Rum, and hang out with Bedouins. Includes itineraries, suggested hostels, entry requirements, and more...

2 Comments

  • anonymous says:

    Clearly, this was written by a guy. If a woman does some of these things, she will be met with glares and even catcalls. If a woman goes off the beaten path, hitchikes or is solo, there is a much greater risk. Jordan is not as bad as North Africa but still very traditional. I wish they would let a female write these some times because your advise can put solo women at some risk.

    • Will Hatton says:

      Our writing team is made up of both men and women. Probably at least half of our posts are written by women. But we always give priorty to the writer with the most experience of a country…

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